As you may know, the Saab plant in Trollhattan will probably be better known in the mid-term future as a “Delta” plant. The Trollhattan factory will be building Delta-based vehicles such as the Opel Astra and most likely, the coming Saab 9-1 small car.
I still consider it crucial to Saab’s integrity that it retain a manufacturing existence in Trollhattan, so this is pretty important stuff to me as a Saab enthusiast.
There was some union unrest last week at plans to downsize the factory. The unions are concerned that things will be reorganised in a way that limits their capacity to ramp up production again if it’s required.
Jan-Ake Jonsson has spoken recently with TTELA, the local newspaper in Trollhattan. ctm has once again been gracious enough to provide translation of the article:
A smaller and more efficient factory
The Trollhättan plant must be one of the most efficient ones. That is the reason why Jan-Åke Jonsson, CEO Saab Automobile, wants to trim down the production area. But he agrees with the unions that it should not be taken too far.
The criticism from unions last week took aim at this. The way they look at it, the company is going too far in their effort. The proposal could permanently lower the production capacity in a way that would make it too expensive to raise it in the future, they warn.
– “You have to be careful so that is doesn’t take too much investment to go back. We want to secures that the factory remain flexible,” is Jan-Åke Jonsson’s answer.
They do agree on the goal, but not on the way to achieve it. Its all about finding the right balance between downsizing and being more efficient, and retain the flexibility to adjust production after the demand.
– “Currently, we are just analyzing the situation so I won’t comment on any figures. What we are talking about is several years into the future, we cannot today know precisely the volumes in the next decade,” says Jonsson, who is somewhat irritated on the unions for running to the media with the figures at this early stage.
Previously, he has stated that the production at the Trollhättan plant should continue at the same level as today. That means around 100,000 cars per year.
– “My ambition is to continue at the same level. That’s a reasonable ambition.”
The current planing is a direct consequence of the plant having to be adjusted for production of smaller cars on the Delta platform. The goal is to have a better balance between capacity and demand.
– “That is not the case today. We have the capacity to build 50-60% more cars. That kind of unused capacity does not make the plant very efficient. And if you fail to be efficient, you are in trouble if GM Europe have to lower production.”
– “We want to be on the list of efficient factories. That’s the only way to be competitive.”
He use the word competitive almost as a mantra, but then he also thinks that people in Sweden still haven’t taking it to their heart.
– “There is an enormous appetite in the world for car making plants. To have a factory is like a feather in one’s cap, a part of your image. That’s why you have to be almost obsessed about it.”
In a competition that is global, Trollhättan will always have its geographical location as a big drawback. On the upside, the Saab Automobile CEO sees the high quality of plants products, its skilled work force (with salaries that in a Western Europe perspective are reasonable), and its flexibility.